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If you’ve ever taken a look at Tumblr, then you know it’s not your average social network. If you look at the demographic breakdown, you’ll find that Tumblr users are also younger than users on other networks; it’s primarily used by adults aged 18-29, with only 6% of social network using adults active on the site. Tumblr’s typical content certainly appeals to the younger set, with a focus on graphics, animated GIFs, and extremely viral, sharable content.

This might make you uncertain about expending your efforts on Tumblr — but hear us out before you click away. If you put demographics aside for a moment, you’ll see that Tumblr is a huge network: it has over 126 million individual blogs with over 56 billion posts. While that still pales to Twitter’s 554 million accounts and Facebook’s 1.2 billion users, there’s no question that Tumblr is growing, which means this may be a good time to get in on the ground floor of the young network.

Though using Tumblr might not be a fit for every brand, if people are already talking about you on the site, then you have a unique opportunity to jump into the middle of the conversation. We’ve seen this work to good effect for television properties, which use Tumblr’s unique atmosphere to make themselves part of their fans’ conversations. We talked to two television pros to figure out just how Tumblr fits into their social strategies — and how Tumblr could fit into your marketing strategy, too.

Why Make Tumblr Part of Your Social Strategy?

Tumblr login screen

While Tumblr isn’t a social staple for most organizations, there are plenty of companies experimenting with it, including the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “We’re always looking for new ways to engage with our audience online,” explains Fergus Heywood, Executive Producer of Interactive Content with the CBC.

Like any business, CBC can’t afford to spend time on social strategies that won’t produce results. But sometimes new properties demand new approaches, and the corporation took to Tumblr with its new show Cracked. “Because Cracked is a series that’s a little more adult, deals with some pretty dramatic themes, and incorporates lots of cool Canadian indie music, these qualities seemed to be a good match for Tumblr,” Heywood tells us. “Our series lead, David Sutcliffe (Gilmore Girls, Private Practice) also has his own presence on Tumblr, so we wanted to build on that pre-existing following as well.”

For Bite, a Canadian comedy network, the choice to use Tumblr for promoting its broadcasts of Portlandia and its original sitcom Guidance was all about demographics. “Tumblr is the perfect hybrid of blog content and social media,” says Nikki Lamb Tudico, Marketing and Communications Manager at Blue Ant Media. “We liked the customization ability of the pages, which really helps to make the space feel relevant to fans of the shows. The fans of these particular shows are very digitally savvy and are looking to consume content outside of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.”

Making Content Just for Tumblr

Cracked on Tumblr

If you visit any of these shows on Tumblr, you won’t see the type of content you can copy directly to or from Twitter or Facebook. You’ll find a huge focus on graphics, images from the shows, animated GIFs, quotes, and reblogs (that’s Tumblr-speak for sharing content) of fan commentary or content.

“We post everything, from memes and GIFs to games, polls, fun facts, and behind the scenes photos,” says Tudico. “Tumblr really allows us to showcase all the relevant content to our audience in one place, but unlike a website or traditional blog, there’s a much better opportunity for social engagement.”

Portlandia was already a hit with American audiences — and Tumblr users — which gave Bite a lot to work with. More than newer shows Guidance and Cracked, Portlandia has taken the opportunity to use Tumblr to tap in to an existing community of fans. Making Tumblr work for properties that don’t have that kind of existing fanbase can be a bit more challenging — and require a bit more experimentation.

“We considered season one of Cracked a great opportunity to see what would and wouldn’t work on Tumblr,” Heywood says. “We found that in the short-term, interviews with artists and quotes from the show would earn a few notes, but in the long-term, really cool and interesting photographs, photosets and GIFs proved to be more popular.”

Cracked is heading into its second season in 2014, and Heywood plans to continue the Tumblr experiment. “We’ll take what we learned and apply it to Cracked to provide a more targeted, effective offering. The important thing is that with every social platform, Tumblr included, we’re responsive to what people like and adapt and adjust accordingly on the fly. Interacting and directly engaging with fans is paramount in this.”

Tumblr Takes a Unique Approach to Engagement

Portlandia on Bite.ca

“Success is measured in many ways,” says Tudico, “but all come down to the level of engagement we have with our audience”. “If we’re seeing a lot of reblogs, or mentions on other social platforms (posts to Facebook, retweets on Twitter) then we know we’re on the right track and connecting with the audience in meaningful ways. Tumblr really allows us to showcase all the relevant content to our audience in one place, but unlike a website or traditional blog, there’s much better opportunity for social engagement.”

Targeting user engagement on social platforms is no surprise, but Tumblr’s unconventional design gives it an edge here. When people want to interact with your content, they have only three options: share it by email or other channels, reblog it with or without their own commentary, or passively like it. The functionality for readers to simply leave a comment just doesn’t exist, so if they want to discuss your content, they have to be more engaged and share it with their own followers at the same time. The encouragement to share can make content on Tumblr very viral, spreading across the site as more users see it and comment on it.

Both Bite and CBC are continuing their efforts with Tumblr — and perhaps it’s time for your brand to investigate the network, too. “Tumblr is tons of fun,” says Heywood. “We’ll continue to branch out in the Fall with other shows where it makes sense, creating opportunities for our fans to participate more directly and even contribute their own content in a meaningful way.”

Are you using Tumblr in your social strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments!

[Image credits: Robert S. Donovan, Tumblr, Cracked on CBC, Portlandia on Bite]